A simple system to improve your jumping without a coach
You land off of a jump and the first thing that crosses your mind is, “That was awful!” Clearly, you know that you must’ve messed something up because that jump was far from ideal but do you know what exactly caused the problem? Better yet, do you know how to prevent the problem from reoccurring at your next jump?
Contrary to what you may tell yourself, your entire ride to the jump probably wasn’t all that bad. You more than likely just made one minor error that led to your horse jumping so poorly.
If you want to be a more independent rider and not reliant on a coach, than you need to learn how to assess every jump. Don’t worry, it is actually really simple to problem solve during your jump schools. All you have to think about is your five major responsibilities as a rider. So the next time you land off of a rough jump, assess these five things to determine how you can improve:
1) Direction: As basic as steering your horse correctly to jumps sounds, it requires a lot of concentration from you and obedience from your horse. You need to ride accurate lines to all of your fences. If you ride an incorrect line you risk having a run out, refusal or just a plain bad jump. You also have to make sure that your horse’s neck and body are straight when you present it to a jump. Otherwise, your horse will end up jumping crooked and this could easily cost you a rail. Always pay careful attention to the line you ride to every jump.
2) Speed: You cannot jump every fence at the same speed. You will ride an ascending-shaped table much faster than you’d ride an upright rail into a coffin. Likewise, in show jumping, you’d approach a forward five-stride line faster than you’d ride to a pair of upright verticals, set on a tight two-stride. Your horse does not know the speed it needs to jump different types of fences so it is solely your job to ride at the correct speed.
3) Balance: The balance your horse is in when it arrives at a jump will determine the shape of its jump. For upright fences, your horse has to be in a very uphill balance but for ascending jumps you want your horse’s shape to be a little flatter. You never want to ride your horse to a jump without balancing it first because this can be very dangerous. On approach to every fence, you need to ensure that your horse is in the correct balance at least five strides away. To balance your horse, you need to half-halt and make sure that your horse is not leaning on its forehand.
4) Rhythm: Once you determine what speed and balance you need to approach a certain fence, you need to be able to maintain it for the entire approach. You need to be able to use your leg and rein aids to keep your horse moving in a steady rhythm and balance. If you are constantly changing your horse’s rhythm, it is going to be impossible to arrive at the jump with the speed and balance that you need.
5) Timing: This refers to your ability to ‘see a distance’ to know whether you should simply wait for the jump, half-halt, or put your leg on to move up – this is the final piece of the puzzle. Mastering the art of timing takes years of jumping experience and even the best riders sometimes ‘miss’ their distances. The good news is that if you have the other four factors in place, you will still have a quality jump. Timing is something you need to consciously work on becoming better at but don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with it at times. I like to use this pole work exercise frequently to help improve my timing.
So the next time you and your horse have a bad jump, start going over this checklist to assess your approach to determine the root of the problem.
Was your line crooked?
Were you too fast?
Was your horse unbalanced?
Did the rhythm change?
Did you see your distance too late?
You will be amazed how easy it is to problem solve with this logical system.